The acquisition shows that car companies are increasingly looking to mobility services as a way to expand their businesses.
Audi will acquire mobility company Silvercar, stepping up its involvement in the mobility-service sector in a big way. The German automaker is moving to buy all remaining shares in the Texas-based company after acquiring a minority stake in 2015.
Pending approval by regulators, the companies expect the deal to be complete before the middle of this year. Audi has worked with Silvercar on mobility-related projects since 2012, and Silvercar currently uses Audi A4 sedans exclusively for its airport rental-car service. In 2015, Audi invested $28 million in Silvercar.
“This acquisition enables Audi to move forward with a progressive partner and continue our technology leadership in the next era of mobility,” Audi of America CFO Matt Carpenter said in a statement about the deal.
Audi has been cultivating mobility services for some time now. Its Audi On Demand service offers San Francisco residents short-term car rentals, and the automaker offers a similar Audi At Home service geared toward condos and other residential communities. Both services aim to offer more flexibility than traditional car ownership, while still keeping luxury-car drivers within the Audi fold.
The potential impact of sharing services on the car business has other automakers cozying up with mobility companies as well. General Motors invested $500 million in Lyft last year, and offers low-cost rentals to Lyft drivers through its Maven mobility brand, which offers its own car-sharing services. Volvo is a partner in Uber’s self-driving car program. BMW and Daimler (parent of Mercedes-Benz and Smart) both operate their own car-sharing services.
Sharing service represent a potential threat to automakers, but also a potential opportunity. While increased use of car-sharing or ride-sharing services could lower car sales, automakers could also turn these services into profit centers by operating them themselves. After all, you can’t have a car sharing or ride sharing without cars, and Audi and its compatriots are the ones that make them.